| BANGKOK, July 21
BANGKOK, July 21 Thai media organisations called
on the military government on Monday to ease restrictions after
the junta said it would shut down news outlets putting out what
it considers critical coverage.
The military seized power in a May 22 coup and has been
intolerant of criticism of a takeover it said was necessary to
restore stability after six months of sometimes violent protests
against an elected government.
The military said in an order late last week it could shut
down any media that disseminates information that "could harm
national security" or criticises the work of the ruling military
Media executives met senior military officials on Monday to
get clarification on the order.
"There's a positive signal. There might be changes to the
announcement especially the section that gives authorities the
power to close media," Thai Journalists Association chairman
Pradit Ruangdit told reporters after the meeting.
"We'll have to wait and see if the military acts on its
The Friday order compounded difficult conditions for media
since the military overthrew the government of Prime Minister
As well as briefly detaining Yingluck and hundreds of other
politicians and activists, the military shut down about 3,000
independent radio stations and 14 television channels. It has
allowed some to reopen on condition they do not broadcast what
it deems inflammatory material.
Junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha has promised to
install a government by September and hold elections by late
2015. The military has also set about tackling various rackets
from illegal taxi to drugs.
Thai journalists are no strangers to censorship. The country
has some of the toughest laws against lese-majeste, or insulting
the monarchy, in the world. Insulting the king or top members of
the royal family is punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
Thailand's media frequently ranks near the bottom of press
freedom indexes and there is no sign of an imminent improvement.
"We are approaching two months after the coup but there is
no relaxing of press restrictions. In reality it is the
opposite," Sunai Phasuk, senior researcher on Thailand for Human
Rights Watch, told Reuters.
"It is clear that the military has very thin skin and even a
very mild form of dissent is not tolerated. Clearly we are not
heading towards democracy but a mirror-image of what happens in
military barracks - top-down rule."
(Additional reporting by Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Editing by Robert